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Working with change is what creativity is about.

Ed Catmull

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Apathy and Rain

With less than 6% of the registered voters coming to the polls, the budget for Region 1 squeaked by with a margin of 15 votes.  The total was  291-276 votes.  Falls Village was very negative, 48-18, presumably due to the position of their First Selectman.  This was largely overcome by a very positive vote in Salisbury, 79-50. It is always amazing that so few people are concerned with such a large budget.  The apathy in Kent is particularly visible, maybe because half of the high school children go to private school.  Even two and a half years ago, the budget only drew less than 15% of the voters in passing 725-652.

Town Yes No Total
Canaan 18 48 66
Cornwall 45 33 78
Kent 38 36 74
North Canaan 60 60 120
Salisbury 79 50 129
Sharon 51 49 100
Total 291 276 567
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Referendum May 3, 2016

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A referendum vote of the electors and citizens qualified to vote in the towns of Canaan, Cornwall, Kent, North Canaan, Salisbury, and Sharon, Connecticut, will be held in said towns at the following places:

  • Town Hall of Canaan
  • Town Hall of Cornwall
  • Town Hall of Kent
  • Town Hall of North Canaan
  • Town Hall of Salisbury
  • Town Hall of Sharon

Pursuant to Section 10-56 of the Connecticut General Statutes, Revision of 1958, as amended, this referendum is for the purpose of voting on the Regional School District No. 1 budget for 2016-2017 school year.

The polls will be open from 12:00 noon to 8:00 p.m. on Tuesday, May 3, 2016. The question to be voted on, adopted by the Regional School District No. 1 Board of Education at a meeting held on Monday, May 2, 2016, will be placed on the ballot as the following question:

“Shall the combined net budget for Regional School District No. 1 (Housatonic Valley Regional High School, Pupil Services Center and Regional Schools Services Center) for fiscal year 2016-2017 in the amount of $15,494,235 be approved? Vote “Yes” or vote “No”

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Education Cuts

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Governor Dannel P. Malloy proposed a budget this week that would significantly impact education in Region 1 by eliminating the Education Cost Sharing (ECS) from the state in four of our towns.  The good news: those towns can no longer be penalized by the Minimum Budget Requirement.

Town Current Proposed
Canaan $209,153 $201,353
Cornwall $85,129 $0
Kent $167,052 $0
North Canaan $2,091,575 $2,010,975
Salisbury $148,652 $0
Sharon $139,261 $0
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2017 HVRHS Building Project Update

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At their Special Meeting on April 6, 2016, the Region One Board of Education voted to authorize up to $5.76 million for the proposed Renovation and Code project. This represents the total amount required to be authorized. The amount to be borrowed would be defrayed by a school construction grant estimated to be approximately $1.4 million. The district would borrow approximately $4.3 million over a 20-year repayment period. Additional details about the scope of work and cost of the project can be found on the district’s website.

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No News Is

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Last night, the Kent Board of Education met for its regular April meeting. The budget for 2016-2017 will be updated to reflect the actual use of funds, but the bottom line will not be changed. Assistant Superintendent Pam Vogel gave a detailed account of the changes in instruction to personalized learning. She also reviewed her efforts to increase the number of college credit courses at Housatonic. The Board approved the latest revision to the policy on shared services with the other districts in Region 1, known as the 7000 series. And Selectman Jeff Parkin introduced the subject of trauma response training at Kent Center School, but without Board comment.

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A Tale of Three Towns

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Kent was once a small rural town in the northwestern part of Connecticut. It straddles the Housatonic River. It borders on New York to the west. Kent sits in the southernmost part of the Berkshire Hills with beautiful vistas and a rich history. Kent was a thriving active community thirty years ago. Volunteers ran many of the town’s organizations without tax support. However over that last twenty five years, Kent has aged rapidly. Its volunteers have diminished. Its children are disappearing along with their parents. As a place for family homes, Kent is stagnate, but the families are generally older without children. In contrast, as a place for weekend homes, Kent is growing. Over that same twenty five years, the number of weekend homes has nearly doubled. And many of those weekenders now call Kent home as they retire.

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Collaboration Starting

The ABC committee rewriting the 7000 series

The ABC committee rewriting the 7000 series

The All Boards Chairs (ABC) committee met this week after a lengthy absence; the local boards needed to get into budget season. The committee noted that the 10-4b complaint against the Region 1 Board had been dismissed by the state. Then they spent another marathon session working on the policy for shared services, the 7000 series. At long last, they modified the language that had tied them to the former policy. The ABC committee, which now employs the Superintendent of Schools, will become a collaborative committee representing the seven school districts. They have ceased to be an advisory committee of the Region 1 Board. The ABC committee also started the process for hiring a new Superintendent as specified by the Joint Employment Agreement; they formed an exploratory committee to define the search/hiring process. And they started discussion of several regional initiatives aimed to save the districts money through cooperative effort.

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Personalized Technology

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This week, the Region 1 Board of Education held a lengthy meeting on educational subjects. It must have seemed like a welcome break from the budget, although they also approved a budget for the public hearing on April 6, 2016. Now that the Board is receiving all its information electronically, they spent some time on possible changes to make it more effective. They asked Business Manager Sam Herrick to provide a summarized report in addition to his detailed report. From Assistant Superintendent Pam Vogel and Housatonic Principal Jose Martinez, they heard about an administrator trip to Colorado to see personalized learning in practice. Vogel outlined the change in learning focus for Region 1. And they attended to administrative details like approving spring coaches, several field trips, a new Restraint policy, a new Environmental Science course with college credit, and returning last year’s surplus monies to the local Boards of Education.

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The Ugly Press

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At their regular March meeting, the Kent Board of Education approved their budgets for the next year. The expense budget for Kent Center School increased by 2.03%. When added to the increase from Region 1, the budget came to $7,165,676 or a 2.68% increase. They also approved a new capital plan, returning to the previous plan, because the Board of Finance has yet to accept their plan after three tries. They approved the purchase of a new truck for the head custodian. They approved a proposal from Jacunski & Humes, architects, to engage in an assessment of Kent Center School in order to develop a long term maintenance plan. They approved two new policies on Restraint and Wellness and reviewed the revised 7000 series for the first time. But at the end of the meeting, Waterbury reporter Lynn Worthington accused the Board of holding secret meetings by email in an incredible display of ignorance. Chaos ensued.

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Region 1 Board Prevails

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Andrea Downs, Chairman, Region 1 Board of Education

The Connecticut State Board of Education, at its March 2, 2016 meeting, voted unanimously to dismiss the Complaint that was filed on July 14, 2015 by seven residents of Canaan, including the members of the Board of Selectmen, against the Region One Board of Education.

After a thorough investigation by the State Department of Education, the State Board of Education acted in accordance with the recommendation of Commissioner of Education Dianna Wentzell, finding that "there is no reasonable cause to believe that the Region One Board has failed, or is unable to implement the educational interests of the State of Connecticut as defined in C.G.S. Section 10-4a." (See attached resolution).

As noted in Commissioner’s recommendation to the members of the State Board of Education, the Department’s seven month investigation into the allegations of this complaint "determined that the evidence did not establish that the Region One Board attempted to coerce the Canaan Board of Education to participate in the joint employment agreement, and the differences as to the various terms of the joint employment agreement did not implicate the educational interests of the state …. "

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